Basic Player Reading – Playing Style

[BB] “I’m definitely getting out of my comfort zone here”, Benny the Book admitted to his son. “But to become great at Hold ‘Em, you need to pay very close attention to your opponents. The more you notice about how they play, the better. Do you know who would have been an amazing Texas Hold ‘Em player?”

[JJ] “Miss Cleo?”,1 Joey the Juvenile offered facetiously.

[BB] “Sherlock Holmes! Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s great detective once said, ‘It is my business to know what other people don’t know’.”2

[BB] “You’ve now played a few tournaments with us, so you should have an idea of how people play. Preflop, who’s the loosest player in the group?”

[JJ] “William the Whale. He makes big bets all the time.”

[BB] “‘You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear”3, Benny quoted. “William likes to make you think he’s incredibly loose, but that’s only because you notice his big bets when he’s in a hand.”

[JJ] “Well, Carlos the Crazy then.”

[BB] “You’re getting warmer. He’s probably in second.”

[JJ] “I don’t know.”

[BB] “Tyrone the Telephone. He’s a total calling station. He flies under the radar because he mostly just calls, but he definitely sees more flops than anyone.”

[BB] “Who sees the fewest flops?”

[JJ] “Either Mildred the Mouse or Roderick the Rock.”

[BB] “Right! Roderick loosens up a bit in the cash game, which Mildred never plays in, but they’re both super-afraid of busting out of the tournament. They pretty much stick to premium hands and will fold a dozen times in a row, no sweat.”

[BB] “You’ve already touched on this, but who are the most aggressive players besides William and Carlos?”

[JJ] “Deb the Duchess, Elias the Eagle, and Yuri the Young Gun.”

[BB] “Excellent. If you were sitting at a table with those five, I don’t think you’d ever see a flop where everyone limped.”

[BB] “Who really loves suited connectors, even the awful Four-Three and Three-Two?”

[JJ] “I have no idea.”

[BB] “That would be Harriet the Hazy, who always thinks she can hit a lucky flop.”

[BB] “Who will play any pair, even facing a big preflop raise out of position?”

[JJ] “Most of us.”

[BB] “Not too inaccurate, but I was thinking of Figaro the Fish. You saw him last month when he almost won the tournament after hitting so many sets.”4

[BB] “Holmes also insisted, ‘It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.’5 Every hand leaves a trail of data to be collected. You go into each hand with what you already know about your opponents. That’s like the case file for each criminal. You add that to the checks, bets, raises, and calls on each street. Those are your clues from the current crime (well, they’re trying to steal your chips, right?). With all the evidence you have, you can then decide what the best action to take is.”

[BB] “Now, I don’t even really know the answers to these questions, but it would really help your play if you could notice… Who will play any Ace? Any pair? Who will play any two cards from the button? Who defends their blinds too much because they don’t correctly value position? Who will call almost any bet to chase a draw? Who will bet when all they have is a draw? Who will bluff a four-flush on the board without a flush? Who will represent an Ace on the board without it?”

[JJ] “Wow, I guess I need to start paying more attention.”

[BB] “Exactly. Especially when you’re not in a hand, since that should be more often than when you’re in a hand. After each hand, try to mentally review what just happened and update your images of each active player.”

[BB] “If you can do that, you’ll be a better player than me very soon.”

[JJ] “I can’t wait! But didn’t Holmes also claim, ‘There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact’?”6

[BB] “Well, you also need to figure out who the deceptive players are. Against the better players, you won’t be able to pinpoint their two hole cards. ‘We balance probabilities and choose the most likely. It is the scientific use of the imagination.'”7

[BB] “Ultimately, if you pay more attention, you’ll have more information. If you have more information, you’ll make better decisions. If you make better decisions, you’ll win more.”

[JJ] “Elementary!”8


  1. Youree Dell Harris portrayed Miss Cleo in television ads for the Psychic Readers Network from 1997 to 2003.
  2. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, page 254.
  3. A Scandal in Bohemia, page 162.
  4. See Sets Education.
  5. A Scandal in Bohemia, page 163.
  6. The Bascombe Valley Mystery, page 204.
  7. The Hound of the Baskervilles, page 687.
  8. Doyle never had Sherlock Holmes say, “Elementary, my dear Watson.” The catchphrase was popularized by the many movies made from his stories.

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